In Washington, there is no legal necessity to engage an attorney to draft a will. However, engaging with our experienced Vancouver wills attorney can help you draft a will that best reflects your objectives. Effective estate planning can save administrative expenses and facilitate the transfer of your assets to your loved ones.
We shall be available to answer any queries you may have on essential terminology or procedures. Due to the complexities of tax laws, options for creating a will, and considerations in selecting an executor of your will or administrator of your estate, it may be beneficial to retain legal counsel to assist you in creating a plan for the future of your loved ones and the protection of the estate you’ve built over a lifetime.
If you are at least 18 years old and of “sound and disposing mind,” state law permits you to prepare a will that specifies how your estate will be allocated upon your death. Those who have recently endured significant life events should also see a lawyer about drafting a new will or canceling an existing one.
To form a legitimate new will, for instance, a person who just had a child and wishes to include the child in their new will must revoke a previous will that does not include the child. If someone wishes to make a modest change to their will through a codicil, they should also consult with an attorney.
Our knowledgeable wills attorney at Robert Russell Law Office provides a particular set of skills for the process of drafting a last will and testament or resolving issues of issues of fraud over the validity of a person’s last will and testament. Even if each case has its unique characteristics, someone who has dealt with similar instances in the past will be familiar with certain procedures and ways for preventing future disagreements amongst heirs. We are aware that there are techniques that protect a client’s will from being disputed owing to improper influence during its formation.
Most individuals use a will to specify what should happen to their possessions after death. What else is contained in a will? A will can also be used to:
Decide Who Will Receive Your Stuff After You Die
The most basic and straightforward purpose of creating a will is to choose who will inherit your possessions upon death. Without a will or other arrangement, such as a living trust, the laws of your state dictate how your property will be divided, often to your closest relatives, such as your spouse, children, or parents.
Appoint an Executor
After you die, someone needs to assist in wrapping up your estate. In some states, you can choose an executor or personal representative through your will. Without a will, a court will choose someone to carry out this responsibility.
Appoint a Guardian to Look After Your Children
The only place to name a guardian for your children is in a will. If you don’t need a will for any other reason, but wish to appoint guardians for your young children, you should create a will. If you pass away without a will, the court will choose who will care for your children.
Appoint a Property Manager to Manage Your Children’s Real Estate
Any property entrusted to a kid, whether by you or someone else, must be administered by an adult. When you transfer property to your children through a will, trust, life insurance, or other beneficiary designation, you can leave management instructions – often through a trust or the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Separately, you can appoint a property manager in your will to take care of any property left without a designated guardian.
Provide Your Pet With a Caretaker
You can specify a trustworthy keeper for your pet in your will. You may also leave this individual money to assist them in caring for your pet. Wills are not the only method to prepare for your pet’s care but are typically the easiest.
Offer an Alternative to Your Living Trust or Other Estate Plan
Consider again if you believe you don’t need a will because you have a living trust and don’t need to name guardians for children or pets. You may wish to create a backup will. A contingent will be a catch-all for any property not covered by your living trust or other estate planning instrument.
For instance, it will handle any property that you neglect to transfer to your living trust, that you acquire after establishing your living trust, or that is transferred wrongly to your living trust.
What Can’t a Will Do?
Wills are fantastic, straightforward, and affordable methods to handle the estate planning goals of many people, but they are insufficient. Here are some things you should not expect your will to do.
Leave Certain Property Behind
Generally, you cannot use your will to leave:
- Properties held under joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, or community property with the right of survivorship with a co-tenant or spouse.
- Transferred property into a living trust.
- Beneficiary proceeds from a life insurance policy that you have designated.
- Beneficiary funds in a pension plan, individual retirement account (IRA), 401(k) plan, or other retirement plans for which you have designated a beneficiary on account administrator-supplied forms.
- Real estate is held in beneficiary form (Transfer on Death or TOD). In certain states, this may also include real estate and automobiles.
- Money in a bank account due upon death.
Leave Funeral Wishes
Typically, wills are not read or even discovered until days or weeks following a person’s passing. It is too late to assist those who must make quick decisions on the disposition of a body and funeral or memorial services. Instead, create a separate document that outlines your desires and informs your executor where to locate it.
Minimize Estate Taxes
If you anticipate that your estate may owe federal estate taxes, you may choose to take action to decrease the tax burden. A will does not aid in tax avoidance. Numerous types of trusts can decrease or defer taxes.
Before it may be transferred to the beneficiaries of a will, property bequeathed through a will may be held in probate court for many months to a year.
Place Restrictions on Gifts
There are also certain legal restrictions on what may be included in a will. For instance, you cannot leave a present contingent on the recipient’s marriage, divorce, or religious conversion. However, you can attempt to affect minor concerns.
Leave Cash for an Unlawful Purpose
This is a rare occurrence, but you cannot provide funds for unlawful activities, such as encouraging kids to smoke.
Make Arrangements for a Recipient With Special Needs
The will is not the place to give long-term care to someone. Much better to establish a trust suited to the recipient’s needs. A special needs trust might give additional income to a disabled loved one without endangering their eligibility for government assistance.
Leave Cash to Animals
Do not attempt to leave property directly to your pets in your will, as they cannot own property. Instead, give your pet to someone who has committed to offering a decent home, along with some money to assist with pet-related costs. Some states allow pet trusts, but if you have faith in the person you’ve designated to care for your pets after your death, a trust is generally unnecessary.
What Are the Different Types of Wills?
Wills might differ in their precise intent, form, and structure. For instance:
This type of will specifies who should receive whatever property, names an executor to assist carry out your desires, and chooses a guardian for any minor children.
This type of will attempts to tie both spouses to the same set of wishes, however, it is invalid in some states and is generally opposed by attorneys today.
In some states, this type of will is lawful even if it does not meet the conventional legal standards for a will. However, it should only be produced in emergencies where witnesses are unavailable.
This type of will is a regular addition to a living trust, and is used to transfer any property inadvertently excluded from the trust.
How to Make a Will in Washington?
Here is a simple checklist for creating a will in the state of Washington:
- Determine which assets to include in your will
- Determine who will inherit your estate
- Appoint an executor to administer your estate
- Appoint a legal guardian for your children
- Choose a property manager for children’s belongings
- Create your will
- Sign a will in the presence of witnesses
- Archive your will securely
- If wanted, register your will with the court
What Should Be Included in Your Last Will and Testament?
Wills can range from simple documents with a few beneficiaries to intricate schemes involving several assets. These subjects should be included in the majority of wills:
How Your Property Ought to Be Distributed
Describing your preferences regarding your possessions is one of the most essential aspects of a will. The first option is to divide your assets equally among your beneficiaries. This is the simplest approach, but it may not be the best option if some of your beneficiaries are not financially stable enough to receive a large inheritance.
Another option is to give specific assets or amounts of money to certain beneficiaries. For example, you might want to leave your home and car to your spouse while giving all other assets to your children. This approach can be more complicated than simply dividing everything evenly, but it can be a more efficient way to distribute your property.
Who Will Be the Executor
An executor is a person who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes after you die. This person should be someone you trust implicitly to follow your instructions and make sure your beneficiaries receive their inheritance.
Your will should include the name of the executor as well as any alternate executors in case the first one is unable or unwilling to serve. You should also include a statement that the executor will serve without pay unless you specifically state otherwise.
Beneficiaries’ Names and Contact Details
Your will should include the full name and contact information of each of your beneficiaries. It is also a good idea to include relationship information, such as whether the beneficiary is your spouse, child, grandchild, etc. This will make it easier for the executor to identify and locate the beneficiaries.
What Happens to the Properties You Own
If you own real estate, such as a home or land, you will need to specify what should happen to it when you die. You can leave it to a specific beneficiary or beneficiaries, or instruct the executor to sell the property and distribute the proceeds among your beneficiaries.
Choosing Guardians for Any Children That You May Have
If you have minor children, you will need to appoint a guardian to take care of them if something happens to you. The guardian can be anyone you trust, such as a family member or close friend. You should also name a backup guardian in case the first one is unable or unwilling to serve.
Whether or Not You Have Established Trusts for Your Beneficiaries
If you have created trusts for your beneficiaries, you will need to include information about them in your will. This includes the name of the trust, the trustee, and the beneficiaries. You should also include instructions on managing the trust and when it should be distributed.
Should Your Will Be Notarized?
In Washington, you do not need to get your will notarized for it to be valid. Washington enables you to make your will “self-proving,” but you must visit a notary if you choose to do so. A self-proving will expedite the administration of the estate since the court can accept it without contacting the witnesses who signed it.
To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses must go to the notary and sign an affidavit that verifies who you are and that you were aware you were signing the will.
Should You Name an Executor in Your Will?
In Washington, you can choose an executor in your will to ensure that its terms are followed out after your death. If you fail to select an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to administer your estate.
Can You Cancel Your Will or Modify It?
You may cancel or alter your will at any time in Washington. You can revoke your will by:
- Burning, shredding, canceling, erasing, or destroying your will to rescind it
- In front of you and two other witnesses, commanding someone to burn, rip, cancel, annihilate, or destroy your will
- Drafting a new will that explicitly revokes the previous one or that includes clauses that are inconsistent with the existing one
If you and your spouse divorce, if a judge rules that your marriage was invalid, or if you dissolve your domestic partnership, Washington law invalidates any provisions in your will that leave property to your spouse or designate your spouse or domestic partner as your executor.
This rule does not apply if you specify in your will that divorce should not affect its provisions. If you are concerned about the impact of divorce on your will, please contact our experienced Vancouver wills attorney for assistance.
If you need to modify your will, you should revoke it and create a new one. However, if you just need to make minor modifications, you can add a codicil to your current will. In any scenario, you must complete your revisions using the same procedures you used to create your first will.
What Happens If There is No Will?
If you die without a will in Washington, your assets will be allocated according to the state’s “intestacy” statutes. The law of intestacy in Washington distributes your estate to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a partner nor children, your property will go to your grandkids or your parents.
This list of distant relatives continues with siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and nieces and nephews. If the court determines that you have no live blood or marriage relations, the state will seize your property.
What Happens If a Will is Contestable?
During the estate administration process, even the most meticulously designed wills and other estate planning papers may be contested. This can result from a variety of circumstances, such as issues over the testator’s mental capacity at the time of signing the will, concerns regarding a breach of fiduciary duty or fraud, factual mistakes or technological defects in the will, and obsolete information in the will, or will forgery.
In the case of a will challenge, the administrator of the estate, also known as the personal representative or estate executor, must continue to work in the beneficiaries’ and estate’s best interests. The claim brought against the estate to contest the will may result in the will being upheld as legitimate, declared invalid, particular gifts or inheritances being deemed invalid, or gifts or inheritances being amended.